Tagged: Angel of the Lord

Hagar’s encounter with the angel of the LORD

A figure identified as the angel of the LORD appears to four different individuals in the Book of Genesis. He first comes to Hagar, Sarai’s Egyptian handmaiden; then to Abram; then to Abram and Sarai, whom he renames Abraham and Sarah; then again to Abraham; and finally on two occasions to Jacob. 

In these personal encounters with human beings, the angel appears in human form yet is recognized as God. He comforts, prophesies, commands, delivers, prevents a human sacrifice, and even disables an opponent in a wrestling match. In these visits, we capture our first glimpses of a second Yahweh figure – one who bears the name, presence, and power of God, yet is a distinct person from the unseen Creator.

To Hagar

Genesis 16:7-13 

Genesis 16 records the first undisputed appearance of the angel of the LORD in Scripture, and he comes to a fleeing Egyptian handmaiden. A little background may help set the stage. God has promised Abram a child through whom many descendants are to come, and a land they are to possess (Gen. 15). The LORD even appears as a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch in a theophany to seal his covenant promises (Gen. 15:17-21). But after a decade, the LORD has yet to deliver on his promise. So, Sarai takes matters into her own hands, offering her handmaiden Hagar to Abram, who agrees with his wife’s plan. But when Hagar becomes pregnant, Sarai burns with jealousy, mistreats her servant, and banishes the Egyptian from her tent. 

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The Word of the Lord appears

Following is another in a series of excerpts from What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD, released by High Street Press.

Yahweh breaks into the physical realm in many ways through what are known as theophanies. He appears in human form, or cloaked in dark clouds, or as a rider on a chariot-throne. But sometimes he simply speaks – that is, one or more persons on earth hear God’s voice. 

For example, God tells Noah he is about to destroy the earth (Gen. 6:13). The LORD proclaims divine judgment on King Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 4:31). And at Jesus’ baptism, the Father declares from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased” (Mark 1:11). 

Further, the word of the LORD or the word of God comes to divinely appointed prophets dozens of times throughout the Old Testament. They receive God’s message and proclaim it as:

… an expansion of a living personality, who in this case is Yahweh Himself; and it has the power which only that uniquely powerful personality can give it…. The word of Yahweh, like the word of man, is a release of the power of the personality which utters it. He who receives the word is invaded by the personality of the speaker; when the speaker is Yahweh, the transforming influence of the word exceeds the influence of any human speech. 

John L. McKenzie, The Word of God in the Old Testament

But occasionally in the Old Testament, God shows up, not with a word, but as the word. These are known as Christophanies, or appearances of the preincarnate Christ. Often, he appears as the angel of the LORD, who is the focus of our study. Sometimes, however, Old Testament writers call him the word of the LORD. We should take note of this.

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Introducing the Angel of the LORD

Following is another in a series of excerpts from What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD, released by High Street Press.

Let’s look at a key passage of Scripture regarding the angel of the LORD – Exodus 23:20-23:

I am going to send an angel before you to protect you on the way and bring you to the place I have prepared. Be attentive to him and listen to him. Do not defy him, because he will not forgive your acts of rebellion, for my name is in him. But if you will carefully obey him and do everything I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes. For my angel will go before you and bring you to the land …

Note several truths about God’s special angel in this passage:

Yahweh sends him. A holy angel never works alone. The LORD sends and the angel obeys.

The angel is a malak, a term meaning “messenger” and may apply to a human, a created spirit being, or in some cases to God himself.

He protects God’s people and brings them to the Promised Land. Deliverance of the Israelites from Egyptian bondage is something God does, as we note in other Scriptures. So, the LORD and the angel of the LORD are one in the purpose but may be distinguished as persons.

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A special angel

Following is another in a series of excerpts from What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD, released by High Street Press.

Of all the angels we encounter in Scripture, one stands apart from the rest. In his many Old Testament appearances, he alone speaks for God as God. He alone bears the divine name. He alone is all-knowing and all-powerful. He alone breaks into the natural realm in a variety of disguises: a flame in a thorn bush, a sword-wielding warrior, a voice from a pillar of cloud and fire; a king riding a heavenly chariot-throne. 

He is divine, yet he talks face-to-face with selected people, from a female Gentile runaway slave to a young prophet in his bed. He delivers. He destroys. He brings messages. He forgives sins. He is malak YHWH, the angel of the LORD.

This messenger is above all others. He is eternal and uncreated. He appears or is mentioned dozens of times in the Old Testament, but never in the same sense in the New Testament – except for references to the Book of Exodus in Acts 7 and Jude 5. Among other names, he is called “the angel of the LORD,” “commander of the LORD’s army,” “the God of Abraham,” “Judge,” and “I AM WHO I AM” – a name only the one true God ever claims for himself.

Who is this awe-inspiring messenger? Ancient Jews believed him to be a special angel, the highest revelation of the unseen God. Similarly, Roman Catholics generally regard the angel of the LORD as an angelic representative of God, as do some Protestants. Many evangelicals, however, consider him either a manifestation of Yahweh – a theophany, derived from the Greek words theos (God) and pheino (to appear) – or a Christophany, an appearance of the Son of God prior to the Incarnation.

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The Angel of the LORD

Following is an excerpt from Jesus Before Bethlehem: What Every Christian Should Know About the Angel of the LORD, released by High Street Press.

The female donkey sees him first: an ominous, sword-wielding figure appearing right in front of her. Startled, she veers off the path and into a field, prompting her rider to strike her in anger. Next, the mysterious swordsman cuts off the donkey’s escape route. Panicked, she presses against a stone wall, jamming her rider’s foot. A second beating ensues. After a third confrontation with the swordsman, the donkey crouches in surrender.

That does it. The rider, a mercenary prophet named Balaam, beats the donkey mercilessly – until the donkey speaks: “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”

The prophet replies, “You have made me look like a fool. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now!” 

At last, Balaam’s eyes are opened and he sees what his donkey has seen all along: a divine person, called the angel of the LORD, standing in the path with a drawn sword in his hand. The prophet prostrates himself in worship before the angel, confesses his sin, and receives further instructions.

Numbers 22 records this strange scene involving a prophet for hire, a sword-brandishing angel, and yes, a talking donkey. In fact, we may be so charmed by the loquacious beast of burden that we overlook the angelic intruder. Who is the angel of the LORD?

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